This post might get a bit gushy, so I’m going to start off with the main points of why it was the best race I’ve ever ran:
- A quick (1h) and cheap (£8.40 return) train from London (if you drive there is loads of parking too)
- A noon start time on a Sunday
- Starts and ends in a vineyard
- Fancy dress is encouraged and the emphasis of the whole event is on fun
- The route is mainly trails that wind all around the countryside and up some hills for lovely views
- The race director is just hanging around in a superman costume talking to everyone before and after the race.
- Everyone is chatty along the race and the marshalls are the most friendly ever
- There is wine along the route and post-race.
- A post-race hog roast (and cakes if you’re still hungry)
- There are 7 well-stocked food stations. It’s the only race I’ve finished full.
I had heard the amazingness of Bacchus for a few years now but couldn’t run it last year due to that wedding I was in. When registration opened this year I hopped on it as knew it would sell out quickly since it’s rated the best in the UK on Runner’s World forums.
The pre-race information sent out was informative and helpful, like this illustration of the food stations below. (These are the things we need to know Race Directors!)
We chose to pick up our registration on the day, but if you live in Surrey you can pick it up on the Friday. When we arrived at 11am on race day there was zero line in registration and we flew through the bag drop. It couldn’t have been better organised. The vineyard was buzzing with runners getting (their costumes) ready and checking out the competition. I personally was worried about being overtaken by 12 beer bottles and the gang of Nanas.
Alex and I were dressed up as Frenchmen in the spirit of drinking wine and running we figured we could use all the genetic help we could get. The moustaches stayed on for about 5 minutes but the rest of the costume performed well over the race. Smoking and running isn’ the best idea, but couldn’t resist the photo opp.
We ran into the lovely Melissa during a quick pre-race photoshoot in the vineyard and our cheap e-bay fancy dress outfits were envious of her custom-sewed sailor running outfit (she’s amazing!). Little did I know at the time she had sewn some speed in that lycra and finished the half as 3rd female! Podium power! Before we could sample some of the 2013 vintage we were corralled into the start with some cows, 3 blind mice, zoo animals, a lot of 80s exercise divas, and an amazing Vegas champagne girl all in gold.
The race started with a 1 mile lap around the vineyard with baby-wines (grapes?) growing all around and we settled into a nice slow pace in the middle of the group. Everywhere you looked there were hills so it wasn’t long before we made our way up one and off the wine estate through a narrow path (some walking happened here as it was a teeny bottleneck) into Dorking. For about 2 miles the route followed a busy road so it wasn’t the most scenic, but it was over fast and we didn’t see any more road for the rest of the race.
The first of seven fuel stops was along the side of one of these roads. There were these lovely neon yellow DRINKS AHEAD signs that filled me up with so much joy every 2 or so miles. The first stop I grabbed at Twix bar and a sample of the white wine. When in Rome and all that.
We quickly re-joined a trail and ran some more until THE NEXT
FUEL WINE STATION! Where I sampled a lovely rose (I’m not 100% sure on the order of wine at the stations, but I think it was white, sparkling, white, rose, white, red, sparkling?). Most runners stopped and hung out at the stations for a bit. There was so much food one runner even thought it was a tuck shop and tried to pay for his crisps. We hung around at each stop for minute or so to enjoy our drinks but not get too cold and out of the running pattern.
As we continued on the scenery was great. The photo below is of one of the only flat parts of the course where the ‘spectators’ were more interested in their grass than us. Rude.
Throughout the whole race other runners wished us bonne chance, or pushed us along with Allez! Allez! Allez! I used my extensive high school French Canadian vocabulary to reply to most, “Nous allons gagner!” in a confident wine-haze. The sparkling wine stop was lovely and we caught up with a couple dressed as grape vines who had been near us the whole race. At one point we were running behind them and they were discussing the “bum chafe” that the tights were giving them…. Just in case you wondered how we kept entertained without music (no headphones allowed in this race!)
From the sparkling wine stop it was uphill some more until we came to the lovely Stop #4. The marshalls were the BEST here (even asking us to post photos of them on Facebook!) and we were in such high spirits after leaving we didn’t notice that we were steadily going up-and-up-and-up-and… yeah up.
This was THE HILL everyone warned us about and it didn’t disappoint. There were a lot of people walking up it (hey, every step forward gets you closer to the finish line!) but Alex and I kept our slow-wine-pace and made it up to the top of the ridge for some glorious views and more WINE!
Each station was stocked like this one. I wish the Bacchus organisers could do my shopping and fill my cupboards. At this station I had some rose and a bag of crisps that I was still eating along the trail when we saw a race photographer. I might be the first ever race photo while holding crisps, yay!
After the huge hill the route followed a lovely forest trail where daywalkers were
terrified happy to see sweaty Frenchmen running towards them stuffing crisps in their mouth. There was still more uphill than downhill but it didn’t feel that hard at our lovely wine-pace.
At the last station I promise I didn’t drink the whole bottle, but we took our time enjoying the vintage on offer. I was really sad the race was coming to an end and used the excuse to play with the station dog for a bit to stay a while longer. From there it was literally all downhill (a big one) as we ran back into the vineyard. The grapes caught up to us again and as you can see from my facial expression, having grapes chase you is terrifying.
They caught up and we posed for one last picture before jogging with them the last km into the finish. Found out they were an Ironman/Ultra couple just out having some fun (oh yeeah… Alex and I? We run 10ks sometimes) which was EXACTLY the spirit of this race. The grapes ditched us and sprinted the last 100m for a thrilling finish and we crossed the line to a handshake and medal from the lovely race director Alan. Our official finish time was a PB for wine-running at 2:21, but I did keep track of our only-running time on my garmin and excluding our wine stops we ran for 2:08.
Alex of course beat me by 0:01 which I think brings us back to being tied over our lifetime or races, and I was placed in the Senior Ladies category. (These are the things that happen when you turn 30 that they DON’T warn you about.) There was one final station at the end with all the cakes, fruit and biscuits you could want, and some water and squash to transition you into real life where there isn’t wine every 2 miles.
We were given amazing t-shirts designed by local artist Laurie King (unisex sizing FYI if you’re wondering about registering for next year, I grabbed a small) and a solid medal for our achievement of drinking & running around the hills of Surrey. We skipped the massages and headed straight for the hog roast & beer/glass of wine (full sized!) that was included in registration. It wasn’t the best bbq I’ve ever had, but was a delicious post-race treat! We also ran into Cat who had just run the marathon (only 1 hour longer than it took us to do the half! gulp) and got a podium spot again as a top finisher! So, to recap the achievements I tried all the wines at each stop and my friends both got podiums, we were clearly ALL winners at Bacchus.
We grabbed a bottle of Denbies Rose from the gift shop and headed back to London just before the downpour hit. All in all it was an amazing day out with top notch organisation and just a fabulous race to run. I am already jealous of myself for running it and can’t wait until next year.